I love a good singer-songwriter. I think it all started by watching my mom and her sisters get drunk off of wine and Hamm’s beer, and then dance around the house while Blonde on Blonde spun on the record player. The album, along with rampant alcoholism, is just a few of the things I have inherited from her. There is just something I find enjoyable about a simple melody, combined with a well-crafted lyric and a dull buzz.
Formerly of the Nourallah Brothers, Salim Nourallah, has decided to attempt a solo career as a singer-songwriter. Working with one’s family members can be a contentious situation. Even as I write this, I am staring at the back of my brother’s head, wanting to stab it with a fork. However, there is something about familial collusion that can produce something truly great, as the self-titled Nourallah Brothers’ first and only album demonstrates. Alas, the volatile situation rarely lasts for long (although The Kinks did famously duke it out, literally and figuratively for a number of years), and we can only hope that the solo endeavors can equal the sum of its parts.
Fortunately, fans of the brothers will not be disappointed by Salim’s first solo offering, Polaroid. However, for most people, this is probably the first thing they will hear from anyone with the last name of Nourallah, due to the fact that they did not stay together long enough to achieve any large-scale name recognition.
Many of Salim’s songs have a soft, bittersweet quality about them. Blending folk with Beatles, 60’s British pop, Salim create a sound that is unique yet familiar. The songs are simple; most of them fronted by an acoustic guitar with synthesizer accompaniment floating in the background. He is at his best when his raspy, mournful voice is accompanied simply by an acoustic guitar, as with the songs “Christmas Eve” and “The Ones Who Hurt Us.” Not all of his songs are dark, as evinced by the upbeat “1978” and the cocktail-jazz of “We did Some Things.” The latter is a whimsical song that brings up images of my grandparents sitting in chairs upholstered in puke-green fabric whilst sipping on martinis.
However, the song “A Family Disease,” he appears to be singing to his son about the genetic faults he has passed on to him, quickly follows it. Cheerful subject matters with a bitter layer of dysfunction are always entertaining. Lyrics are intensely personal and every track on Polaroid revolves around family life. The song “Model Brothers” begins by reminiscing on the good times he had growing up with his brother and ends by singing “now 34 and 32/ can’t think of when I last saw you/ the dreams are gone, don’t smile a lot/ it didn’t turn out like we thought.” Simple yet poignant. . .much like the album itself.